Untitled; But Not Without Reason
Dale is a big man.
He easily stands six foot two,
two hundred and twenty pounds with a hardened face and a full mustache and when he speaks, in-between puffs of his mini-macanudo cigars, each word has purpose and comes out slowly with a Mainer’s distinct drawl and intonation.
His blue eyes told a thousand stories.
His blue eyes looked like sadness felt.
Dale was a star football player in high school
He told me that every day.
He had all of the stats and the play by plays chiseled away into his memory.
See, Dale was a Stone Mason now and pushing fifty,
with all the scars and pains that accompany any hard lived life, and worse.
He had broken his back a long time ago but the pain still lingered and the pills didn’t help, and one of his thumbs was now one half-inch longer than the other. This is what happens when a four-pound hammer just misses its mark.
See, I was a senior in high school
I was supposed to be a star too.
I was a hockey player,
I tried to not let my ego get the best of me.
My id did.
I broke my back,
Hopes and dreams shattered.
I hadn’t applied to a single college.
I got better but I didn’t become better.
I needed to find a job.
I wanted to find myself.
I became a Stone Mason because it was all I knew;
I found solace in hoisting these heavy things into place.
Dale taught me to find Zen in the art of stone masonry.
See, our stone walls are still the best standing.
You can hardly fit a sheet of paper in-between the cracks, even now after many winter and summer cycles of freezing and expansion and melting and contracting.
Each rock was perfectly placed.
Each wall was our masterpiece.
This required precision and the learned ability to become one with your tools-
after all, this is granite we’re dealing with:
its strength was only outweighed by our resolution.
the outcome was equal to our desire.
There was not much talking between us during the winter months,
just the sound of metal striking rock.
It was very cold on the coast of Maine, and our lips were frozen shut.
In the summer the heat came and thawed out our bones.
I got to know him a little better in-between the hammer blows.
His wife of twenty years had left him one day;
Taken his children and his life savings that he kept in a brown paper bag in the bottom of a broken dryer in the basement.
We only talked about it that one time.
We sat on the beach, with sand in our eyes.
It was the first time I’d ever seen a grown man cry.
His tears soaked his mustache.
We smoked a joint to pass the time.
We spoke while the water rose: laughing at our feet.
We went back to work.
We became the hammer and the chisel.
Together, and bit-by-bit we changed the shape of that granite to fit wherever we needed it to.
So, it was no surprise to me when I went wandering down the road from my house in Puerto Rico and cut through the thick jungle vines to the footpath where palm trees and dead leaves lead the way to the spot where I want my ashes spread some day.
Dale stood at the end of the path and glowed.
A lit cigar dangled from his lips and his hands stretched out before him.
He held a hammer and a chisel
I had surfboard under my arm and wore a pair of swim trunks and that was all I thought I needed.
I put the surfboard down and he didn’t say anything as I took them, which was fine,
I can’t hear as well as I used to;
I have buried my eardrums a million times in the very spot we now stood.
I looked at the tools more closelythe metal was humming and glowingly bright,
residual sunlight refracted off their clean and sparkling surfaces and speckled my face.
The handle of the chisel was inscribed with the words, “Firm patience.”
The handle of the hammer was inscribed with the words, “Que sera sera.”
I didn’t have anywhere to put them.
Dale said he’d hold on to them for me.
I said, “thanks, man,” we shook hands,
both calloused and worn beyond their years.
We looked toward the ocean, blue and humbling in its immensity, searching for truths,
finding only vagabonds in waveforms.
Fascinated and frail;
distractions burned our pupil’s as light became dancing imagery and dancing imagery, brash reality; three buttons to the wind.
All fades, anesthetized by time and age- even the pain we carry with us.
But our walls will never crumble.
The waves looked fun.
The tide was low and the reef was shallow and sharp
I waved at Dale and said I’d see him in a little.
He sat down on the tall concrete wall from where my family and friends will one day gather to celebrate the freedom of my soul from my earthly body.
I walked down the goat path to the beach and stopped at the edge of the water: the abutment of dangerously sharp volcanic reef and water, and myriad grains of sand.
The axilla of divinity.
I jumped in and let the dropping tide pull me out back, fingertips and fins brushing the reef as I paddled.
The water was so clear I could see my dead best friends in its reflection.
While I found Zen in ocean, rhyming with its rhythm, pulsing with it’s pulses, weightless with nothing in mind, Dale must’ve walked back up the footpath because he was gone when I finished surfing and got back to the sand with a smile.
This is not unusual.
The sun was setting.
I found the hammer and chisel in a crevice of the base of the banyan tree where I hide my cigarettes and lighter.
I didn’t feel like having a cigarette; now or ever again.
I left them.
I grabbed my things.
Surfboard under my arm, a hammer and chisel in my free hand.I stopped and had a beer at my friend’s house.
The beer was cold and the night was warm.
Dale was gone, but I had all that I needed now.